Stomp website promoting voyeurism

From ‘MDA responds to anti-Stomp petition’, 17 April 2014, ST

Media regulator the Media Development Authority (MDA) will not influence the editorial slant of websites but will take firm action if there is a breach of public interest or the promotion of racial and religious hatred or intolerance. In a statement on its Facebook page last weekend, it wrote that netizens can and should continue to signal to Internet content providers the standards expected of them as part of efforts to promote responsible online behaviour.

The post was made in response to a petition to shut down citizen journalism website Stomp, which is owned by Singapore Press Holdings (SPH). The petition claims to have collected more than 22,700 signatures since being set up 11 days ago on international campaigning site change.org by 26-year-old retail executive Robin Li.

…Mr Li told The Straits Times that he launched the petition after a March 24 post on Stomp in which an NSman was accused by a Stomp contributor of failing to offer his seat to an elderly woman in front of him. But one picture in the post’s photo gallery showed a reserve seat near the NSman that was empty.

Mr Li said that was the “last straw”. “Many netizens contribute posts that are at the expense of others, especially NSmen. Their faces are not blurred either… this promotes voyeurism and comes at the expense of their privacy,” he said.

Mr Felix Soh, editor, digital media group, of SPH’s Digital Division which oversees Stomp, denied Mr Li’s accusations and pointed out that there was no attempt to hide any information in the March 24 story.

“In fact, the full picture showing an empty seat on the MRT train was published by Stomp in the gallery of two photos accompanying the story. Furthermore, the fact that there was an empty seat in the row was mentioned in the second paragraph.” He added: “It is sad that those who clamour for the freedom of the Internet are now asking for the closure of a website – just because they don’t like it.”

Many people didn’t ‘like’ adultery site Ashley Madison either, which MDA banned because it didn’t meet their guidelines on ‘public interest’, flagrantly disregarding ‘family values and public morality’. Invasion of privacy, however, not only doesn’t count as a breach of ‘public morality’, but is in fact the bread and butter of Stomp, so it’s not in SPH’s ‘interest’ to shut down the voyeuristic tabloid elements. Those of a more dystopian bent would see Stomp as the dreaded roving all-seeing-eye, to the point that the threat of getting ‘stomped’ has become an everyday catch-all phrase to deter any form of antisocial behaviour, be it eating on the train or sleeping on a priority seat. What would it take for SPH to stop encouraging people from spying on each other, I wonder? Someone traumatised enough to kill himself in shame because his photo got plastered all over social media, perhaps?

Instead of addressing their penchant for distorting images and context at the expense of the unsuspecting, SPH went on to question the authenticity of the petition and the number of electronic signatures obtained. Not like numbers matter anyway since it’s unlikely that a petition would bring about Stomp’s demise. There’s also a certain demographic of those people caught on camera. Everyday people like you and me doing everyday things. You may even find yourself snapped unawares even if you’re not part of the action. Fat chance finding a Stomp piece about an important person flicking his booger in public.

Launched in 2006 as the ‘Straits Times Online Mobile Print‘, SPH’s intention was to cultivate what has been termed ‘citizen journalism’, or ‘grass-roots reporting‘. Cherian George disagrees with ‘citizen journalism’ for the simple reason that the end product still has to get the blessings of ST journalists, who get to pick and choose what sells and not what’s decent. Nonetheless, the award winning site (Gold for BEST ORIGINAL CONTENT (provided by other people for free), 2014) stands by its original purpose of getting users to do the ST’s job without a single cent. For every piece of news that justly highlights abuse towards the mentally disabled, road ragers or brawls on the train, there are at least a dozen others that belong more to the category of ‘citizen paparazzi’ than ‘journalism’. Stomp calls their stars of the show ‘Hey Goondus’, while users out to defend the innocents mock contributors as ‘stupid stompers’, unwittingly adding to the millions of hits that keep the site alive.

Here’s my rundown of my ‘Best of Stomp Voyeurism’ stories, which also serves as a warning to everyone out there, not just hapless NSmen, who ever eats food in public, cuddles, sleeps on the train or wears short hot pants. You’d also notice how the editors are inconsistent in their practice of blurring out faces so you can’t trust them with any sense of moral decency. The more practical way to shut Stomp down, short of hiring Anonymous to hack the shit out of it, is to just stop visiting, sharing or ‘liking’, though I confess to occasionally accessing it if only for ‘research purposes’.

1. NSman with trouser leg coming loose

Break a leg, stompers

2. Guy eating a bun on the bus.

The shame is too hard to swallow

3. Couple sleeping on MRT

The editors who let this go public were sleeping on the job too

4. Eating during a presidential salute

Tony Tan Keng Yum

5. Kids hugging in uniform

Stomper, you sicko you.

6. NSman drinking water on a train

No water parades on the train

7. Girls with long legs

One for your private collection, eh Stomper?

8. Taking your dog out unleashed.

Dogged by stompers

9. CISCO officers eating in a food court

Don’t ever get caught lining up for Krispy Kreme, cops

10. Wearing a helmet on the bus

Stomper is way aHEAD of you, poor guy

But it’s not just voyeur posters going out of control in Stomp. The editors are unable to manage death threats from commenters as well.  Like this one:

Eh this stomper should be shot 10x over. This poor bloke is serving YOU. Protecting YOU. Defending YOU. You effing suck for taking a pot shot at this poor NS dude you retarded asswipe. Learn how to appreciate others and not nit pick you moron.

Of course even if by some miracle the petition is successful in forcing Stomp to close shop, there will be plenty of eager startup companies waiting to pounce and create copycat platforms, not to mention the likes of already existing forums and Facebook. If you’re a regular contributor to Stomp, I hope you realise SPH is winning ‘journalism’ accolades at your expense, and that even if you think you’re reporting wholesome, worthy news, you’re indirectly supporting the propagation of trashy ones. If you happen to be a victim of Stomp and your life has been ruined forever, my advice is to set up a support group for similarly affected individuals, hunt down and stalk the ‘Stompers’ and editors responsible for your shame, and set them up on your own ‘citizen journalism’ campaign website because two can play at that game. You could call it ‘Stompers Are Bastards Online’, or SABO.

 

 

About these ads

DJ Chris Ho calling for ‘fckn’ Singaporeans to be killed

From ‘Radio DJ apologises for Facebook post’, 5 April 2014, article by Walter Sim, ST

A MEDIACORP Lush 99.5FM DJ apologised yesterday for a controversial Facebook post in which he called for Singaporeans to be killed. Mr Chris Ho commented on an army recruitment advertisement on the social media platform on Thursday.

The campaign, launched last December, bears the slogan: “How far would you go to protect our home?” The Singaporean wrote in response: “How far…? Let’s see… I’m with you foreigners! Kill the **** Singaporeans but not my friends, can?”

His comment caused fury among netizens and was reposted on citizen journalism portal Stomp. Contributor Tee Seng said: “What kind of joke is this? If he hates Singaporeans so much, why is he still here? I used to be a fan of his but he has gone too far.”

Mr Ho told The Straits Times yesterday he was surprised by the response. “It is such a far-fetched statement that I’m shocked that Singaporeans are taking it so seriously,” he said, adding that the “satirical” message was meant to mock the campaign slogan. “Hello, Singaporeans, you mean you need people to give you a wake-up call to defend the country?” he asked.

“Why should the question be put forth as such? Singaporeans who love the country would know what to do.” He said he wanted to allude to the rising levels of anti-foreigner sentiment here. The ex-Straits Times rock columnist added: “I think Singaporeans are looking for a new Anton Casey… I’m not advocating genocide.”

How far? Too far for some, apparently

How far? Gone too far for some, apparently

It took me a while to ‘get’ the humour behind Chris Ho’s jibe at the SAF ad, and thankfully, I’m not the only one who thinks he’s ‘too cheem’ for me. It’s also hard to tell when he’s sarcastic or furious when he and New Nation bickered online over the post where the latter made fun of Chris ‘falling’ for a satire piece about ‘Man dying in a protest against foreigners‘ (which wasn’t even very funny to begin with). I don’t know what experts on wit think of either example of this ‘satire’, but in my book, satire should have universal appeal, is spontaneous, and actually funny to someone other than the creator. Or maybe it’s just me.

As for the ad, I don’t see anything wrong with asking someone ‘how far would you go’ to defend the nation, even if any response other than ‘I’ll fight to the death’ will be deemed unacceptable. It’s like asking ‘Will you die for Singapore?’, or ‘How much would you give to society?’, a pedantic rhetorical device to remind you of your duty, where an actual answer isn’t expected because we don’t want to hear the ugly truth.  But there’s a double meaning here too if you interpret ‘how far’ in terms of literal DISTANCE, which is more likely to be the case here, looking at the mountains in the background. It sounds sensible at first, referring to overseas stints from Brunei to Afghanistan to get you all geared up for military operations, but if you think about it, the further away you are, the SLOWER you are in coming back in the event of a real ATTACK back home. Either way, the slogan is bound to get criticised, and Chris, or X’Ho, is no stranger when it comes to controversy or criticising his home country.

Dj-ing for Lush aside, Chris is a local music icon who in the early 80′s performed as frontman for Zircon Lounge and is today revered as the counter-cultural antithesis to more ‘wholesome’ ambassadors like Dick Lee.  He also dabbles in ‘spoken word’ album territory, and from his 1999 album ‘X’ with an X’ came a track called ‘Singapore is Not My Country‘, his take on Alfian Bin Saat’s ‘ode’ to the nation (the full transcript here). In the 2000′s, Zircon Gov.Pawn Starz was formed. The album ‘Follywood’ features the track ‘Mouthless Fish‘ about people ‘barely breathing to make ends meet’, with BigO magazine rating it as the ‘most fucking punk rock album we have ever’. Check out this ‘punk rock’ album cover!

Majulah SingaPawnStarz

The ‘shock jock’ has even been filmed getting his PENIS tattooed. In THAI. A Today review of 2008′s Baphomet Sacrum describes him as ‘Singapore’s unfavourite son’.  Anyone unfamiliar with ‘dark wave’ or goth would think track titles such as ‘Satan’s Blood’ and ‘Her Soul’s Demise’ off the Lucifugous collaboration album were devotional hymns of the occult.  ‘No Ordinary Country’ has the refrain ‘Majulah Fearless Supremacy’ and its album cover has lightning logos on it. There’s even a song about the Blogfather himself called ‘Excuse Me Mr Brown’, where Chris calls Brown the ‘next Talking Cock big time’. ‘Talking cock’ being, well, the lingua franca of social media most of the time anyway.

So the first question that came to mind was: What did this multi-hyphenate (author, singer, DJ, film director) celebrity, being Singaporean and all, actually DO IN NS? According to a 2006 Interview with Today, he said he ‘has done everything he could think of to get into the Singapore Armed Forces MUSIC AND DRAMA Company’, and eventually spent 2 years as an actor after BMT. Like, who wouldn’t right? How far then would you go, Chris Ho, to protect this country that you love-hate so much? A question that wasn’t addressed in his FB apology, or maybe it was hidden somewhere so deep and lost in ‘satire’ that I couldn’t detect it with my radar for low-brow fart jokes and all.

There was a time when the man actually made seriously good pop music, without the Singapore-bashing and ‘satire’ getting in the way. Unlike his current ‘uneasy listening’ work, ‘Deeper’ (1992) is heartfelt and uncharacteristically melodious, and no surprise that this came before the ‘Punk Monk Hunk’ days, where spiritual awakenings mean getting your genitals pricked and scarred in the name of art. Pubic hair snipping? Amateur!

Which suggests that Chris is capable for much more than just ranting against the Government or NS, or participating in the Berlin Porn Festival. It would be nice to see that good ol’ innocent side of him once more.

Mothership website made to register with MDA

From ‘MDA asks website mothership.sg to register for licence’, 3 April 2014, article by Robin Chan, ST

Social news website Mothership.sg has become the latest to be asked by the Media Development Authority to register with it, which prohibits it from receiving foreign funding. Mothership has four full-time staff, counts former foreign minister George Yeo as a contributor, and is backed by a social enterprise known as Project Fisher-Men, which is chaired by civil service veteran Philip Yeo.

In a statement on Thursday, the Media Development Authority (MDA) said it had notified Project Fisher-Men on March 27, to register under the Broadcasting (Class Licence) Notification, which was enacted under Section 9 of the Broadcasting Act.

The MDA said it had assessed that the website meets the registration criteria and it must register by April 11. This is as it promotes or discusses political issues relating to Singapore, and is “structured as a corporate entity which is deemed to be more susceptible to coming under foreign influence through foreign funding“.

Holy Mother of Mercy! MDA on the licensing warpath yet again!

When Mothership was publicised by the ST in Feb this year (Social news website Mothership brings home discussion on Singapore, 3 Feb 2014), it was touted as the Singapore version of Buzzfeed. Backed by the likes of original social media advocate George Yeo and consisting of ex-Ministry men such as Jonathan Lim (MICA) and former PMO civil servant Martino Tan (who set up PM Lee’s Facebook page), it has all the makings of a casual yet Government-friendly portal, an alternative to ‘alternative media’. Executive director Lien We King is also an ardent supporter of George Yeo, and was among those helping the ex-minister collect presidential election eligibility forms back in 2011. ‘Foreign influence’ therefore seems to be the last thing MDA should worry about. In fact, there’s something so grounded and familial about Mothership that calling itself ‘Fathership’ as in ‘founding father’ wouldn’t be too off the mark either.

The odd man out, curiously, is New Nation’s Belmont Lay, who used to be Opposition candidate Nicole Seah’s campaign manager. New Nation is, of course, the satire site notorious for taking the monkey out of MDA. A post titled ‘MDA required to obtain $5 million licence from New Nation’ mocks the agency as ‘Murder Decimate Arserape‘. In an article written in his personal capacity, Belmont dished out some pro-tips on how to deal with the MDA’s licensing scheme, among which include:

There is no better way to deal with the licensing scheme than to act as if there is no licensing scheme. That would really show them.

Well now it’s the Mothership’s turn to be at the receiving end of the Mother of all arserapes. I wonder how the Mothership, with Belmont’s expert guidance, can steer itself out of this shit. Perhaps good ol’ George, chairman of Kerry Logistics, can help them out with the $50,000 ‘performance bond’.

So I’m guessing the real reason why Mothership is getting buggered by MDA is not so much about its content or the risk of it being hijacked by anti-Singapore propagandists, but because having shackled the likes of The Independent and bringing about the unfortunate demise of Breakfast Network, this move seems out to show detractors that MDA is ‘fair’ is its implementation of licensing requirements, that even ‘pro-government’ sites which can list 48 wonderful things to ‘feel for Singapore’ are not exempt from registration.

In short, it’s an attempt at consolation for the brute high-handedness delivered on the real rogue sites out there. You know, like a mother refusing to show favoritism by lashing both the good and bad kid with the same whip. Still, here’s hoping Mothership continues onwards with its maiden voyage despite this MDA setback, a lone fairy godmother hovering over this vast wasteland of debauched ‘alternative media’, lactating her warm, wholesome chicken soup of feel-good Singapore stories upon us all.

So when’s your turn to join the fray, The Real Singapore?

Postscript: Mothership decided to register with the Grandaddy that is MDA after all, agreeing to ‘comply with all laws, rules, regulations and codes of practice’. Not one voice of protest in the team, taking it gamely like gentlemen. Mother Father Gentlemen.

 

 

Cannabis awareness website banned by MDA

From ‘CNB objects to cannabis promotion website; MDA orders its removal by Wednesday’, 18 Feb 2014, article by Hoe Pei Shan,  ST

The owners of a website with information on what they claim to be “productive uses of cannabis in Singaporean society” have been told to remove the contents entirely after an assessment by the Central Narcotics Bureau (CNB). In a statement released on Tuesday afternoon, CNB confirmed that it had reviewed the Singapore Cannabis Awareness website and found it to be objectionable.

The Media Development Authority has ordered the owners to remove the website by Wednesday as it “contains material that promotes or tends to promote the use of a prohibited substance”. By Tuesday afternoon, the website appeared offline, but the Singapore Cannabis Awareness Facebook page was still live.

CNB said in its statement that the website “undermines Singapore’s efforts in drug preventive education and erodes our society’s resilience against drug abuse”. “Singaporeans enjoy a safe and secure environment because of our firm stance against drugs and crime, and central to this is our ‘zero-tolerance’ approach against the drug menace,” it added.

The website also makes claims about the purported benefits of “medical cannabis”, said CNB, despite a lack of “properly conducted and validated clinical trials to show that the purported benefits of this drug outweigh its risks”. CNB advised those who claim to have evidence of its medical properties to submit such evidence to the health authorities, rather than promoting the use of a prohibited substance to the public.

You don’t need a Singaporean website to tell you how awesome marijuana is. Just ask US Presidents Obama and Bill Clinton, who both used to smoke pot, or you can drop by Denver Colorado for a spliff, where recreational use of cannabis has been legalised. The ‘zero tolerance’ approach is invariably a stuffy, close-minded one, and CNB was quick to divert any enquiries on medical marijuana to ‘the health authorities’ whilst inadvertently acknowledging that there might be some pharmaceutical potential in pot after all. To the Ganja Regulatory Association of Scientists Singapore (GRASS), perhaps?

Of course, no matter how miraculous a shot of cannabis has been proven to improve the quality of life of a terminal cancer patient, it would probably take ages before drug companies get past the legislative hurdles and red tape in order to sell a cannabis in a capsule locally. We could harvest it like a ‘prescription herb’ for far cheaper but the pharma industries would not have medicinal weed eating into their market share of blockbusters. But then again, there’s always MORPHINE,  itself a derivative of OPIUM, the stuff old Chinese men used to smoke all day keeping busy instead of visiting prostitutes or getting into gang fights. It is probably a matter of time before Cannabis becomes the next Morphine, but with ‘zero tolerance’ as a guiding principle, we’d have deprived scores of patients in dire need of an alternative, affordable drug when that happens, one that you could practically grow in your own backyard. You wouldn’t arrest an end stage lung cancer patient for smoking to death with tobacco but will charge him for drug abuse if he stashes ganja to ease the pain. What a crackpot irony.

The Cannabis FB page makes an argument against blockbuster drugs with safety complications including cardiovascular deaths like painkiller Vioxx, since withdrawn from the market because it was killing people instead of treating them. Supporters of pot also draw comparisons with another potent drug, one allegedly deadlier and far more accessible. A drug that has been cited as a ‘contributory factor‘ for the Little India Riot: ALCOHOL. Imagine if the would-be rioters weren’t drowning themselves in liquor but chilling out on ganja instead.

Nowhere in the page does it promote the use of cannabis as a ‘fun’ drug. There’s also a lack of ‘properly conducted and validated clinical trials’ to show that the benefits of ‘recreational’ caffeine outweighs the risk, but nobody would ban me if I start a ‘Caffeine Appreciation’ or ‘Weight Loss Fat Burners for Life!’ webpage. But these aren’t ‘addictive’ you say? Go ask an anorexic about her slimming pills, or the disgruntled office worker without his morning cuppa. How about the less sensational abuse of prescription drugs for ADHD like Ritalin to improve academic performance in students? Many ‘legal’ drugs today are used in a seemingly ‘illegal’ manner, yet CNB only seems to care about the illicit stuff that screws with your mind. Ritalin, incidentally, is related to methamphetamine, or ‘speed’. Try promoting that to save tuition fees or score for PSLE and see if MDA or CNB gives a hoot. By the way, it does mess up your mind with inappropriate use too.

The Cannabis site creators should be thankful, though, that they aren’t yet charged under the ‘Undesirable Publications Act’, like how you may be caught for selling ‘drug-themed’ T-shirts with pictures of cannabis leaves on them. Since we’re regressing into ‘Puff the Magic Dragon’(banned in 1963 for promoting marijuana) territory, why not ban Mary Poppins  for secret ‘drug references’ too?

PM Lee unfriending SBY on Facebook

From ‘Singapore PM Lee unfriends Yudhoyono? Indonesian media duped by spoof’, 12 Feb 2014, article by Zakir Hussein, ST

WHEN a satirical website weighs in on a serious bilateral dispute with the potential to escalate, expect some to fall for it. Several Indonesian media outlets, under pressure from a 24/7 news cycle, ran a spoof by Singapore’s NewNation.sg headlined: “PM Lee unfriends Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono on Facebook, untags him from photos”.

And at least one afternoon daily, Harian Terbit, ran a page one article on Wednesday on the supposed virtual rift, headlined: “Singapore PM-SBY cut off friendship”, with a prominent Facebook logo between pictures of the two leaders.

…While both countries’ leaders have active public Facebook pages – Prime Minister Lee has more than 271,000 followers and President Yudhoyono more than 1.8 million – neither leader maintains a Facebook account, at least not one that’s public, that enables them to befriend and, in Facebook parlance, unfriend, another user of the social networking site.

…Several of the online news websites soon realised their mistake, rewrote their stories and ran corrections. And at least two ran reports on how some, themselves included, fell for the hoax. The VivaNews website headlined its piece: “Singapore PM unfriends SBY, Indonesian media fell for the hoax”. The website of the largest national newspaper, Kompas, was also taken in. It later amended its headline to “KRI Usman-Harun controversy: Satire on Singapore PM blocking President SBY’s Facebook spreads”.

In a correction below that report, the website reproduced the erroneous version it ran a few hours earlier, based on the New Nation spoof. But some on social media had yet to realise the satirical report was a hoax. A commentary on the hardline site, voaislam, seemed to take the spoof for real, saying the reported action “has crossed the boundaries” and calling on Indonesians to be brave in standing up to Singapore.

But a reader on a Kompas forum commented: “This is a severe hoax. How could something concerning ties between two countries become a laughing matter? If taken seriously, the consequences could be fatal.”

New Nation aspires to be the Singaporean version of The Onion, the original news spoof site that has a reputation for fooling despot governments into taking their news seriously. Iranian media lapped up a fake story about rural Americans willing to vote President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad over Obama. China was convinced that Kim Jong Un was voted the Sexiest Man Alive. Bangladeshi journalists believed them when Neil Armstrong reportedly admitted that his moon landing was a hoax. New Nation have even conned our own nation’s biggest troll site, Stomp, with a fake article about a woman fainting at a nomination centre for ‘opposition unity’, and seem mighty proud of it. And now our Indonesian neighbours have just been hoodwinked by a joke about PM Lee breaking up with SBY on Facebook. Problem is, the New Nation article wasn’t very funny to begin with. And maybe they didn’t actually ‘fall for it’ but deviously planned this all along just to aggravate matters between the two nations.

It is a fact that both leaders have Facebook accounts, and to have one ‘unfriending’ another after years of painful name-calling in a final act of political tit-for-tat isn’t THAT far fetched.  New Nation’s article was eerily similar to a post by Mr Brown semi-jokingly calling for PM to ‘unfriend SBY on Facebook’, accompanied by a comic portraying the leaders engaging in a juvenile tiff. I’m not aware of any country that has waged war on another over a silly parody, but this embarrassment comes right after our ministers have been seemingly appeased by Indonesia’s proclamation that they bore ‘no ill will’ towards us after naming a navy ship after a couple of ‘state actors’, possibly the worst euphemism for terrorists ever.

It also doesn’t help if your ‘spoof site’ has a title that dozens of ‘serious’ news organisations share as well. Like ‘New Nation News‘ and UK’s New Nation (‘number 1 black newspaper’). Maybe editor Belmont Lay (also part of the Mothership.sg) should change the tagline back to ’50% REAL news’ from the current ’50% lucky news’ (50% unlucky that the Indonesians thought it was for real). Or consider something other than ‘New Nation’ altogether. Like ‘The Chap Chye’ or something.

Whether or not the Indonesian media were plain suckers or were deliberately provoking a reaction, this isn’t exactly the best time to prank a country in a position to curb the impending haze and cooperate with their neighbours, especially so after we ‘uninvited’ their top brass from our airshow. I’m not sure if by starting a joke about bilateral ties being severed over Facebook we risk letting the Indonesians have the last laugh while we tear not from the unintentional comedy of their journalists, but eventually, if the winds of change don’t blow in our favour, from their smog in our eyes.

People are all ‘tulan’ with Anton Casey

From ‘We can afford to forgive this arrogant twerp’, 26 Jan 2014, article by Chua Mui Hoong, Think, Sunday Times

…To be sure, he sounded like an arrogant little twerp. But what accounts for such anger towards him? When I mentioned to a taxi driver that online reactions to Mr Casey were getting nasty, he nodded and said: “Yah, people all tulan” – a Hokkien word whose metaphorical meaning refers to being vexed beyond tolerance.

He went on to recount some of his own “Anton Casey moments”. In his case, it was expat cyclists: those who hog a lane, or two. Who expect right of way everywhere: pedestrians to make way for them on pavements, and motorists to make way for them on the road, who dart across traffic light junctions when the light isn’t in their favour, expecting cars to avoid them.

…In any case, if his latest apology is sincere – unlike the earlier one issued through a public relations company – he is having his own personal epiphany. What about us Singaporeans? Perhaps we too need to do some self-reflection.

Can we be a little less prickly when others poke fun at us? Can we learn to fight back online, without resorting to personal attacks, vulgarities or threats of harm? Do we have the grace to accept an apology and forgive?

And to say: This man, who is our guest, has returned hospitality with insult. He has done us wrong, but he has apologised and is paying the price. Enough is enough.

twerp

In 2012, PAP hottie and selfie king Baey Yam Keng had to apologise for a controversial remark he made about Singaporeans having to ‘reflect upon ourselves’ after PRC scholar Sun Xu said that ‘there are more dogs than people in Singapore’. Chua Mui Hoong is clearly living dangerously here, saying that Singaporeans can be over ‘prickly’ when foreigners mock us, and that we need to do some ‘self-reflection’. She has also jumped on the ‘spare Anton’ campaign bandwagon after SKM chairman William Wan called for tolerance and empathy, except using the less subtle approach of slamming the guy as an ‘arrogant little twerp’ (the kind of insult that Joe Pesci’s bungling burglar would use on Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone) and then calling for forgiveness later.

The strangest bit about her ‘opinion’ piece is describing Anton’s downfall as him ‘having a personal EPIPHANY’. Is he getting canonised in Perth as we speak or what? The worst thing that could happen now, with people wanting to make pandering statements by straddling the fence between condemnation and forgiveness, is if Anton Casey becomes not just a ‘poster-child’ of Singapore’s expat millionaires, as fellow expat and ST contributor Rob O’Brien put it elegantly (Anton Casey is not every expat, 26 Jan 2014, Sunday Times), but God forbid, victimised to the point of anti-hero and martyr. Enough is enough already.

But reflect I shall. Not if we’re being too harsh on Anton, but rather if this backlash that could be felt all over the world would mean that netizens and online vigilantes are creating a climate of social media phobia for themselves. Fear of saying the wrong things and losing your job over it because someone started a chain reaction of Facebook ‘sharing’. Whether the brouhaha has led to some form of self-censorship, where we’re afraid to touch on matters like race, religion, or class in a non-PC way because you never know when a random post gets blown out of proportion. We may be forced into playing it TOO safe, leading to an ironic state of affairs where the government could kick back and never need to monitor hate speech because we have inadvertently stifled our ‘freedom of speech’ ourselves, more wary of Stomp and Facebook users than the actual media police. Will social media be dumbed down because of the tyranny of the mob, that we’re so careful with being ‘responsible’ that we decide it’s safer to shut up than say something remotely provocative?

Then again, there’s always Perth. Scoot managed to take the AC case to new heights of absurdity. Once vilified as scum, he’s become a running joke. And his family isn’t spared. There’s no letting up on this guy is there? Curiously, this ad reminds me of the ‘Get Lost’ ad used by STB to promote our country in Australia. And get lost he did. He must be praying that no one in Perth says the same to him.

New scoot mascot

On a separate note, I’m rather taken aback that the ST allowed the word ‘TULAN’ in a national newspaper, while other times they’ve been known to censor ‘b**th’, a** and even ‘cr*p’. Tulan is a crude Hokkien term for ‘exasperation’, or literally ‘pig’s dick’. In other words, a vulgarity, like ‘Singaporeans very TULAN cos that ang moh Anton Casey SIBEI GUAILAN (very obnoxious dick)’. Similan (what the dick)?

Keep Calm and Willian Wan

From ‘Anton Case case: Where has all our empathy gone?’ 24 Jan 2014, article by William Wan, ST

…Justice should be meted out, but in a civilised society, one need not gloat at the fallen. To maintain a largely civil society, punishment should not be celebrated. That one would revel in another’s punishment, whether deserved or not, reveals a nature which lacks empathy, a very important property of graciousness.

Empathy for your fellow human being, no matter how bad that person, is a large part of what makes us humans. To be fair, while a large portion of the community felt good about the “punishment” for Anton Casey, many also called for forgiveness since he has apologised. So the feeling of gloating when someone gets his come-uppance isn’t exactly unanimous.

It is, however, significant enough for us to ask ourselves if we are losing touch with our empathetic nature. It is indeed hard to reach for empathy and understanding, especially when one gets swept up in the emotions that such offensive conduct invariably brings out in us. Yet we must do so, to resist the tide of least resistance that would sweep us into concurring or even celebrating the condemnation of others who offend people like us.

Keep Calm and William Wan. As general secretary of the Singapore Kindness Movment, Mr Nice Guy William Wan feels that it is his job and duty to tell haters that we’re overreacting and taking this Anton Casey bashing a tad too far. Perhaps it’s an exaggearation to say that we’re ‘celebrating’ his ‘punishment’ when what most of us are doing is merely gloating silently at some twat’s misfortune, someone who happened to be white, drives a Porsche, and has a Ms Singapore Universe for a wife. To most people, this is a perfectly normal response. Mass disapproval in all its forms is a mechanism that has evolved as a penalty for anyone who flouts the unwritten rules of basic human decency. Anton was a consummate tosser, and needed to be put in his place. Issuing death threats, however, makes you as much as a ‘wanker’ as he is.

Personally I didn’t bang my screen or hurl my mouse across the room like an angry keyboard warrior when I saw what Casey wrote on FB. In fact, I’m wondering what if the inverse happened and I walked into a posh golf club and posted ‘Daddy who are all these rich filthy bastards?’ and ‘Normal service can resume. Once I wash the stench of atas consumerism off me’. I did not pump my fist in sweet victory when he was forced to make a public apology. I may have chuckled at a few memes and lame puns here and there, but I wouldn’t make a police report or throw eggs on his front porch and all over his ‘baby’ Porsche. I also wouldn’t go to the extent of saying ‘Hang in there, buddy’. That’s like giving someone comforting last rites before an execution. I can, however, IMAGINE what it must be like to be him right now. That is empathy. Absolving him of sin, calling for a group hug and singing Michael Jackson’s ‘Heal the World’ is another matter altogether.

We enjoy seeing powerful, obnoxious characters fall from grace; it feeds our lust for poetic justice, and as social animals, this ‘herd mentality’ isn’t a vile contagion to be exorcised with a sermon about attaining Mother Teresa levels of compassion.  It is simply human nature in all its ugly, irrational glory. It’s the same herd mentality that makes us vote a certain ruling party into power, sing the National Anthem during the NDP, or mutter gibberish in church. To feel good about bad behaviour being penalised is itself a manifestation of empathy; we empathise with the common man who has to put up with arrogant swine. If we didn’t care about the well-being of total strangers, we wouldn’t go out of our way to put  serial murderers behind bars for life and thank God for it.

He did escape to Perth eventually, citing ‘threats to his family’ (Briton and family leave for Perth amid threats, 25 Jan 2014, ST). Perhaps he could meet Amy Cheong there and talk about the ‘greatest mistake of his life’ over a spot of tea. Anton also offered to volunteer his time in ‘community projects’ in repentance. He could start by reaching out to the MRT-riding ‘poor’ that he so flippantly mocked (My house is in need of spring cleaning). Or help knit arm warmers for the sick and elderly. He’s got plenty of time for that now that he’s FIRED from CrossInvest Asia.

If William Wan walks the talk, he’d go up and give the bloke a magnanimous hug and a ‘I feel you, bro’. ‘Fight fire with water’ he would say. Except that in this case, he’s trying to extinguish a forest fire with a shower hose. Wan means well and who knows, the world might be a better place if we weren’t so eager to dish out this ‘social media justice’ over some silly, insensitive gaffe. After all, anyone of us could be as careless and unfortunate as Anton Casey was, like the proverbial saying about casting the first stone goes. There is, perhaps, a fine line between online vigilantism and cyber-bullying. In both cases, the instigator always feels that the other ‘deserves’ it. Hating on Anton is fashionable while forgiving him is naive. If you haven’t heard of him by now, you’re living under a rock. Which approach gives a better social payoff is a no-brainer.

Instead of just chastising our hostility as the workings of a crazed mob, let’s think about the positive aspects of this whole saga instead, despite it turning one man into cannon fodder.

1) Singaporeans are willing to rally together when push comes to shove, though some more zealously than others. Given the right reasons, this could be a force to reckoned with.

2) It serves as a deterrent against antisocial behaviour and no stone goes unturned no matter how rich and influential you are.

3) We are proud to defend our MRT as a carrier of the common man, even if it does stink when it comes to breakdowns at times.

4) That the Anton story has gone global serves as a lesson against expat chauvinism everywhere.

5) If Anton does become a changed man after this ordeal, commits himself to lifelong penance through prayer and abstinence and becomes a champion of the destitute, we’d view social media more than just a platform to brag about babies, but one with the power to change lives. Arguably for the better.

6) Singaporeans know better than to extend Anton’s bastardry to ALL expats.

7) Despite Anton on the verge of becoming more hated than Mas Selamat, there are still angels and Bodhisattvas like William Wan to exercise magnanimity and console us if we one day ever find ourselves in Anton’s (Louis Vutton?) shoes.

8) Don’t ever think of migrating to Perth.

I believe Wan isn’t the only person advocating empathy for Anton as a cure to humanity’s ills. Maybe the Dalai Lama has heard of him by now. Others are taking the more practical approach of ‘turning the other cheek’ and ‘just let it go already’, without being swept away by this bashing frenzy or playing Jesus. Alas, now that he’s lost his job, calls to chill are probably too little,  too late. I guess the question on William Wan’s mind now would be: ‘Are you people happy now?’

Stephanie Koh not proud to be Singaporean

From ‘K-pop hunt 3 finalist:I don’t feel proud to be Singaporean’, 13 Jan 2014, article in asiaone. com

Controversial K-pop Star Hunt 3 finalist Stephanie Koh from Singapore says she doesn’t regret how badly she behaved on the reality talent show. In one episode where she was asked to surrender her mobile phone, the 21-year-old had infamously said: “I’ll attack you, I’ll scratch you and I’ll kill you”.

…On the topic on viewers expressing the view that her behaviour gives Singapore a bad name, she said she is not bothered about it. “I wouldn’t actually bother about representing this country because to be honest, I don’t really feel proud to be a Singaporean,” she said.

“Everyone here is so small minded, everyone here is so submissive, everyone here don’t know how to think outside the box, no one here is creative, everyone here just thinks the same way, full of the same rules, and it’s too rigid for my taste,” she told RazorTV.

Stephanie later posted a vlog ranting about why Singapore sucks, making comparisons between Singapore and Australia wages, invoking sympathy for ‘artists’, and blaming the education system for mass manufacturing ‘homework robots’. I didn’t have the patience to listen to a K-pop wannabe complain for more than 10 minutes, so here’s a summary of her main points on why being Singaporean is nothing to be proud of based on the asiaone screenshots.

1. No place for an artist.

The finest example of how artists aren’t appreciated here is the My Grandfather Road saga. Yet, despite Sticker Lady Samantha Lo’s scuffle with the law for her street art, she has managed to find a ‘place’ for her work in Sentosa. If you’re aspiring to be a digital CG artist, there’s Lucasfilms’ Sandcrawler at Fusionopolis. So yeah, you may not be able to get permits to display a dead shark in a tank or even get arrested for using the Singapore flag as an artpiece, but to generalise that art as a career path is a dead end in Singapore is probably stretching it. And, oh, there’s this small local film called Ilo Ilo. Perhaps Stephanie may have heard of it.

2. Singaporeans are narrow minded.

This suggests that we’re fixated on only certain things in life and not open to new experiences. I was expecting Koh to expand on this point to talk about the paper chase and PSLE, but she began complaining about how we’re brainwashed by mainstream media propaganda, and comparing what a waitress would get in Singapore vs Australia. Granted, we’re still a conservative lot, uncomfortable with homosexuality and stuff on the Internet, but that speaks more of the Government than the people of Singapore. I don’t know if she went on to discuss the chewing gum ban.

In a similar vein, someone by the name of Zing waxed lyrical about London some years back;

In London, I can be a saint or a sinner. I can be City boy, goth girl, punk kid; I can be in with the media, in with the cool kids, I can drop rhymes in East End ghettos and I can drop cash in Mahiki on cocktails. I can be posh, poor, upmarket, downmarket, chav, toff, hippie, indie. I can be gay or straight, man or woman.

Zing also bragged about being ‘mugged’ in London and having to need stitches. No I’d rather not be mugged at knifepoint, nor ‘drop rhymes’ thank you very much. And who wants to be ‘poor’?

3. Singaporeans are not creative

This is where the ‘homework’ robot argument comes in. Sure Singapore may never produce the likes of Mark Zuckerberg or Steve Jobs. Even Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak thinks we suck at creativity.

When you’re very structured almost like a religion… Uniforms, uniforms, uniforms… everybody is the same. Look at structured societies like Singapore where bad behavior isn’t tolerated. You are extremely punished.

Where are the creative people? Where are the great artists? Where are the great musicians? Where are the great singers? Where are the great writers? Where are the athletes? All the creative elements seems to disappear.

Perhaps what our critics mean is the lack of innovation and risk-taking, even if such elements may not necessarily lead to noble enterprises. One ex-Singaporean Brandon Wade defied the odds to let his creativity flourish in the US. He runs sugar daddy websites.

‘Creativity’ is subjective of course. Stephenie thinks Jack Neo films are ‘super amazing’ and does cover versions of Gangnam style. Ironically, Jack Neo’s movie success came  from capitalising on the exact same things that Stephenie is whining about. If we weren’t oppressive in some way, ‘I Not Stupid’ wouldn’t have existed. The fact that we’re renown for being a nanny-state makes any sort of creative output noteworthy, like ‘Wow imagine that, a thumb drive invention coming out of boring, sterile Singapore!’. Which did happen, by the way.

4. Singaporeans are submissive

Well, totally. Unlike those buggers rioting in Little India.

5. Singaporeans are not happy, and not nice.

Stephanie tries to impress with some dubious statistics about Singapore being the smallest country in the world with the highest suicide rate. What has the size got to do with suicide anyway? Yeah, we’re not shiny happy people and we grumble a lot. We’re not as ‘nice and friendly’ as the Australians, and aren’t generous when it comes to smiles, emotions, or helping strangers. It needs work I have to admit, though I rather be given a scowl on a train than have someone mug me or insult my race in broad daylight. Again, a case of selective observation and the ‘grass is greener’ syndrome. The average Australian may treat you with zealous hospitality if you’re there visiting, but it might be a different story if you’re there taking someone’s job.

6. Everybody just follow rules

This point is related to all 5 previous points. Everybody loves a rebel, the one who bucks the trend, who goes against the mainstream. ‘Breaking the rules’ has become such an overrated motivational cliche that we forget that for every person who makes it big as a non-conformer, there are other rule-breakers subscribing to the same gung-ho thinking who fall by the wayside.

Stephanie goes on to say she won’t be here for long and will be scooting out of this godforsaken place (I’m guessing Australia where she can join 50,000 of ex-fellow countrymen). I wish her all the best and I’m sure all unhappy, submissive, uncreative Singaporeans are spurred into proving some of her gripes about the country wrong. Not sure if Australia would welcome with open arms someone who mocks her fellow countrymen on Youtube, or feral enough to scratch you if you get anywhere near her precious phone. She ends her video challenging anyone to come up with something worthy to be proud of as a Singaporean. That’s easy: I’m proud of our food, though I don’t know if Stephenie’s diet consists of only kimchee and sour grapes. Maybe she should try some humble pie for a change. That would help a lot if you’re settling down in ANY foreign country and can’t afford to piss people off with a snarky attitude.

I would argue that you don’t have to be ‘proud’ of your own country to be perfectly happy living in it. Singapore has things to be ashamed of, but so does everywhere else in the world. And even if Australia turns out to be a disappointment, it’s unlikely that someone committed to romanticising the country and its way of life would admit that they made the wrong decision to pack their bags and leave in the first place. Let’s be ‘nice’ and just leave her be, shall we.

Iamclarena calling Indians smelly

From ‘Police investigating ‘iamclarena’ for making racist remarks on Twitter’, 11 Jan 2014, article by Lim Yan Liang

The police are investigating a Twitter user for making racist remarks on the social networking portal. The woman, who goes by the handle ‘iamclarena’, had recently posted a series of racist remarks against Indians with her Twitter account.

Responding to queries from The Straits Times, the police confirmed on Friday night that a report had been lodged against the woman for making racially aggravating remarks on social media. The woman, who also goes by the handle ‘Clarena Clanen TzeYi’ on Facebook, is the second person this week to be investigated for posting racist remarks on the Internet.

In 2012, Law Minister K Shanmugam, of all people, received an email from a resident complaining about his Indian neighbours and their ‘Indian sweaty smell and unwashed bodies.’ He found the insult ‘disturbing’ and I assume he didn’t call the police immediately to investigate the matter, nor even call the racist in for a ‘chat’. If ‘Iamclarena’ had sent a direct message to the same minister’s FB page instead of blasting on Twitter, I wonder if he’d do anything about it. I wonder if he even knows what ‘CB’ means.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 10.06.55 PM

In 2005, a Today writer’s daughter was told by her KINDERGARTEN classmates that ‘all Indians are smelly’. When his 3 year old son boarded the school bus, some boys would ‘cover their noses’.  Maybe the kid really had a severe case of BO, but no scientist would want to conduct a study to see if some races emit more unpleasant odours than others, so we’ll never know. There are smelly people of any race, of course, but the Twitterverse is full of people who insist on telling us who the smelliest are. Are we going to investigate them all?

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 10

Google’s also doesn’t filter its popular query drop-down list, as you can see below.

Screen Shot 2014-01-11 at 10.22.54 PM

But it’s not just Indian body smells that are the butt of racist jokes, even the aroma of their curry annoys the living hell out of some people, with some attributing what they eat to how they smell. Their hairiness is also a running joke in Russell Peters’ (himself of Indian descent) gigs, while local DJs refrain from mimicking their accent. Some would label you a racist even if you believe in ‘positive’ stereotypes, like Indians are good at computer stuff, running, or hockey. Where then, do we draw the line?

Screen Shot 2014-01-12 at 6.11.57 PM

The accusation of smelliness isn’t confined to the Indian race. PRCs are also mocked for ‘not bathing’ and ‘stinking up the MRT cabin’, but somehow being labelled malodorous is a greater insult for some races than others. You don’t call someone a ‘stinking Jew’, for example. The police are unlikely to track you down if you say PRCs are dirty and smelly, or generalising the Malays as ‘lazy’. But bring up something as emotive as Indian body odour and you’re asking to be probed. Likewise, the terms ‘drunk Indian’ and ‘drunk Caucasian’ also stir different emotions given the context of recent events. Well at least we know Indians ‘don’t rob banks’.

Iamclarena might end up doing jailhouse Macarena for her foul-mouthed tweets, if only for the sheer stupidity of her actions, though I would suggest the police follow up on Shanmugam’s racist, sarong-hating resident as well. Someone mad enough to complain about Indians to an INDIAN LAW minister sounds like a more serious threat to national security to me.

Heather Chua is really a 22 year old man

From ‘Man probed for posing as woman and making racist remarks online’, 11 Jan 2014, article by David Ee, ST

A 22-YEAR-OLD man is under investigation for making racially insensitive remarks on Facebook while posing as a woman with the fictitious name of Heather Chua. The comments targeting Malays last week caused an outcry among netizens, and led to several police reports being lodged.

Yet to be named, he is assisting police with investigations. The “Heather Chua” moniker gained notoriety online from early last year after numerous posts denigrating, among other groups, the poor and the lower-income.

“She” also hit out at Institute of Technical Education graduates, public housing residents and national servicemen. “Heather Chua” claimed to be a 40-year-old Singaporean who studied engineering at the National University of Singapore and attended Raffles Girls’ School and Temasek Junior College. “She” also claimed to live at Sentosa Cove. Photographs of luxury cars “she” purportedly owned were posted on the Facebook account.

…In a Facebook post last night, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong said he had received complaints about “Heather Chua”, and was glad the Singapore Police Force had established the identity of the man believed to be behind the fictitious profile.

If a hacker claiming to work for the Anonymous legion can get caught by the police, what makes the brainchild behind ‘Heather Chua’ think he could hide behind a fake Facebook profile? The last time someone posed as another person on FB to make disparaging remarks did so under the moniker Rachel Ann Beguia, who insulted Singaporeans as a whole. The post that triggered the hunt for ‘Heather’ was related to Muslim dietary habits, and proved to be as offensive as sharing a link to a Pig on a Kaaba image.

Heather Chua may have started out as a parody account, a fictional persona of an attractive, snobbish and ridiculously wealthy elite, the kind inspired by the likes of  Wee Shu Min.  Citing her home as Sentosa Cove, she followed up her ITE diss by calling HDB dwellers ‘brainless low-lifes’.  It’s hard to imagine that such people exist, or that locals actually LIVE on Sentosa Cove. Last year the same Heather complained about NSmen being slackers and no one seemed to suspect her of being fake despite her familiarity with the army. She also happened to be an admirer of our PM, the very same PM who’s now glad that she’s been nabbed for investigations.

Thankfully, some bloggers were quick to call out Heather as a fraud, as ‘she’ turned out to be. If ‘Heather’ was conceived as an arrogant, racist bitch on the pretentious stage that is FB and her creator may be potentially arrested for sedition, what about characters in plays and movies who spew racist insults, like Adrian Pang’s porn director in Porn Masala? Would screenwriters or producers of racist scripts be called to ‘assist’ the police in investigations?

Racism aside, it’s not the first time someone got flamed for commenting on the educational level or affiliation of the boys they prefer to date. In 2011, relief teacher and blogger Jiang Lai said only ACS boys were worth dating. She was later arrested not for seditious remarks but for attempted suicide, with suggestions of ‘borderline personality disorder’, a neurosis which perhaps all FB users suffer from to various degrees. It’s interesting to see what the real Heather Chua is diagnosed with after being exposed and possibly charged. My bet is on ‘depression’, or at the very least he was ‘going through a difficult time in his life’.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 279 other followers